Sunday, April 02, 2006

Picking Up the Pace

Well, I have been back in the States for almost a month now. Time sure does fly in this fast-paced, 1st world, Western country. I am happy to report that God has been ever-so-faithful since my return. Less than 18 hours after I arrived back in Charleston, I was blessed with the perfect job - waiting tables at Bookstore Cafe. If you aren't so fortunate as to live in Charleston, Bookstore Cafe is, in my unbaised opinion, above and beyond the best breakfast place around. The hours are exactly what I was hoping for - four days 8-4 during the week and an occasional Saturday or two. Perfect for planning a wedding!

Speaking of wedding plans, they are in full swing. This is another area where God has been miraculously wonderful. From our invitations to the D.J., I truly feel that His hand has been upon every aspect of the planning. It seems that whenever Jason and I are together, things easily fall into place. We were out shopping for wedding stuff the other day and ran into his friend who owns a limo service. We needed one, but weren't even thinking about it and, in just a few minutes, it was done. We also happened upon a reasonably priced videographer at Mosaic Church in Charlotte, NC a couple of weeks ago. Those are just a couple of examples of the multitude of blessings I feel He has poured upon me. For any brides-to-be, a hilarious and helpful book I've been reading and would like to recommend is Dazzled to Frazzled and Back Again - The Brides Survival Guide by Ginger Kolbaba.

Today was the Cooper River Bridge Run, a 10K, and a pretty big deal in the Lowcountry - somewhere around 45,000 people ran and walked it this year. The (Kenyan) person who won ran it in 28 minutes! Jason and I ran together and finished in 57 minutes and 10 seconds, a couple minutes shy of our goal of under an hour...not too shabby for our lack of training! It was a lot of fun and I am already looking forward to next year's race. Posted by Picasa

Saturday, March 04, 2006

What I Learned in School

2 Samuel 24:24 says "nor will I offer burnt offerings to the Lord my God with that which costs me nothing." I’ve had the revelation that, after all He has done for us, our sacrifices to God should be somewhat painful. Though the DTS course has been the hardest six months of my life, I feel like I have grown so much and learned many significant lessons.

One of the biggest things I learned is that when we truly seek first the Kingdom and His righteousness, God rewards our faithfulness (Matthew 6:33). Just as a related sidenote, I bought my wedding dress a couple of days ago! The first one I ever even tried on. I felt like God handed me the most beautiful dress I had ever seen (and I have looked at quite a few online over the past couple of months) with a $1000 discount. So amazing!
Partially because a lot of the time I had nothing else to do, I dug deeper in the Word than I ever have before in my life. I was actually given the nickname "verse girl" by one of our team members. I have grown to truly love to grow closer to God by reading the Bible. It has really become my bread of life.

Is that really You God? is the title of one of Loren Cunningham’s (founder of YWAM) books. I have realised how important it is to use the Lord as a filter for everything we are told and for any doors that happen to open. I often find myself asking, "Is that really You God?"

I have also learned the significance that one person can have on the lives of others. Telling one single person about Christ can impact generation after generation. Christobel, an Indian native, was one of our leaders on outreach. Her parents became Christians because a missionary came to their village to tell them about Christ 50 years ago. Her life and passion for the Lord had such an amazing influence on my life. It made me really think about whether or not what I am doing today is going to last beyond my lifetime.

EGR – Extra grace is definitely required when living in community. God has given me a revelation that no matter how much grace I give to others, it will never surpass the amount of grace that He has given me. I have also experienced that prayer for more grace really works – praise God.

Out of all of this, the most important confirmation I have gotten is that missions is truly my hearts desire. Nothing could satisfy me more. I continually want to use the gifts, skills, talents and resources that God blesses me with to reach the lost. I don’t exactly know what is next, but I do feel that God is calling me to work in full time ministry. Does anyone have a job offer? :)

Last night was our DTS graduation. It’s hard to believe that it is actually over. Somewhat bittersweet, I suppose – I am going to really miss all of the amazing friends that I have made, but, at the same time, I am so ready to come home. God bless you, thank you so much for your prayers and I’ll see you soon!

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Almost Home...

Do you remember the movie “Planes, Trains & Automobiles”? Well, I feel like I am right in the middle of it. After a bumpy 16-hour bus ride, a very long 16-hour “layover” in Bangalore and a smelly seven-hour train ride, we finally made it back to Chennai. Our flight to Australia leaves tomorrow afternoon and then it’s back to the States in just a little over a week!

It’s going to be bizarre to go back to a country where I will drive on the right side of the paved road, pretty much all cars have A/C, four wheeling is for snow and “off road”, horns are typically only used in frustration, people are fined for littering - it’s definitely not the way of life, showers are prominent - no more bucketing!, STDs are sexually transmitted diseases - not the phone booths I use to call home, people are usually over 18 when they get married, the only things women wear on their heads are hats and sunglasses - no baskets, sticks, etc., I won’t a superstar (but I will be a bride!) or a singer (oh yes, as sad as it is, many microphones have been put to my lips over the past few months), no one will ask for my autograph or try to take pictures of me, the only herds I see will be of people at a good concert, I’ll have my very own room (at least for a little while!) with a mattress on a bed, children suffer from obesity and materialism (not poverty and starvation), children will be in school - not working construction, carbs are bad, you go to the grocery store for food - not your backyard, tap water is drinkable, Thanksgiving is the only meal that takes more than two hours to make, high maintenance orders (I would like an iced, grande, sugar-free vanilla, non-fat late please) are common and shoes are pretty much required everywhere you go. Crazy as it is, in so many ways, I am really going to miss India!

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Valentine's Day, Ministry and More...

"Who is this guy?!?!" is exactly what my teammates said when we walked in the door after ministry yesterday to find 48 beautiful, long-stemmed red roses and tons of imported chocolate from "Jason Surratt, South Carolina, USA". Who knew that you could send flowers across the world? Especially to an address of "783 Near Merces Church" – no that is not the street name, just a general direction. God definitely had His hand in the success of Jason’s incredibly romantic Valentine’s Day display. I feel so blessed to have such a thoughtful and devoted fiancee! This one can go in the "Jason’s Guide to Romantic Moments" book.

Thankfully, ministry is going just as well as my love life. We have spent the past few weeks working with about 40 children – teaching songs and dances, playing games, giving English lessons, telling Bible stories and helping with homework. I felt like such a mom yesterday as I went back and forth between helping one girl, who was reading a story, with words she didn’t know and counting with another! It has truly been better than I could have ever imagined. Our last day with them is this Sunday and it is going to be so hard to say good-bye. Turns out that Hancee got a sponsor and is going to be able to attend a great school in June! She is really coming along with her reading and speaking.

Jason and I have decided to sponsor a sweet, very artistic (the first day that we were there he spent a couple of hours drawing me a picture of Jesus) little boy named Durgenai and I couldn’t be more excited. He came from a village on the outskirts of town and a Hindu background. His parents both passed away when he was very young and, before he came to the orphanage, he was living with a relative who also passed away. He came to the orphanage for what was supposed to be a short time as his relatives sorted out where he would live. When it came time to leave, he was very unhappy because he wanted to stay with the children. For his better interest, his relatives worked it out for him to stay in the orphanage temporarily. Now he will be able to stay permanently and is going to be enrolled in school in June! We are delighted to ensure that he will be raised in a Christian environment and get a good education. Even more so, I am glad to be able to support him and all of the other children in prayer. I can’t wait to get to a better computer where I can post pictures – they are so precious! If you are interested in sponsoring a child, please feel free to ask me for details.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Glory to God - Ephesians 3:20 Style

Thinking back, so much has happened since my last post. We spent an incredible three weeks in Rayakatta, a marvelous mountain encircled village, two hours south of Bangalore. We were so blessed with wonderful accommodations and even hot water! Though we had been warned that Rayakatta would require much spiritual warfare, nothing could have prepared us for what we experienced. We worked mostly with Pastor Johnly, a wonderful servant of the Lord who moved to the village 30 years ago when no one there had even heard of Jesus. Since that time, his church has grown to over 400 members. During our stay, we did a lot of village ministry – house visits and open air meetings, visited a reformatory school, two private Christian schools, preached the gospel in front of a couple of Hindu temples and performed/gave messages and testimonies at several churches. We witnessed many salvations, saw an entire village come to Christ (!) and prayed for and saw a demon possessed woman delivered. Praise God!

I admit that I am fairly sensitive and, if you went to Sri Lanka with me a couple of years ago you know that the poverty brought quite a few tears to my eyes. I mentally prepared myself before coming to India and, though I have seen conditions worse than I imagined possible, I have been holding it together quite well. However, my heart finally broke one night as we prayed for a 90 year old man – lying on his death bed, a dirt floor with a pile of old clothing as a pillow – to receive healing. He received salvation. This man was the head of the village. I don’t know what moved me more – the fact that he had waited so long and lived almost his entire life without knowing the Lord or the hope that his last dying wishes and words to the village people would be that Jesus is the only way to heaven.

After a smelly, 16 hour train ride, we are now in the state of Goa (a.k.a. God’s one acre!). Our initial accommodations were not exactly five star – a roach infested kitchen, two bedrooms (no beds), a hall and one squatty potty for eleven people and a baby. But, once again, God has been faithful and provided us with a much better set up, real toilet and all. We are positioned very close to the orphanage where we have been and will be working during the majority of our remaining time in India. One of our responsibilities is to help the children with their studies so yesterday I was going through this ABC type book with Hancee, a precious twelve year old girl. I asked one of the older orphans what we should be studying for school and was informed that Hancee is not going to school. She came from a bad family and was never been enrolled as a small child. Now, neither the public nor private schools will take her because she is too old. This absolutely kills me. I am going to do everything in my God given power to try to rectify this situation. The sad fact is that there are countless numbers of children just like her all over this world. Please pray for Hancee and the many other children who do not have the opportunity to have an education.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Missionary/Wedding Planner

So, I have been in India for almost two weeks now and, so far, it has beenan amazing trip! Right now we are in Tirupattur and we have been doing alot of village ministry. That usually consists of a couple of dances orskits, a preaching of the gospel message and lots of prayer. I preached thegospel to a crowd of about 200 one night! God has been so faithful to workthrough our group and many have accepted Christ.

Aside from ice-cold bucket “showers”, our accommodations have actually beenan upgrade from Island Breeze. There are crazy monkeys everywhere - theybroke into our room yesterday and stole our bananas and chocolate. I stillthink they are adorable, but the other girls are kinda freaked out. Thefood is amazing!

Everything is an adventure. Just walking an hour and a half, dodgingpeople, cars, rickshaws, bicycles, motorcycles, cows, chickens and poop touse the internet is a journey in itself. I am pretty used to the blaringhorns by now, but every now and then one is really loud and I scream forfear of being run over. The people all know us (you can’t miss the onlywhite people in town) and have been so kind.

Our team leaves for Rayakatta (sp?) on Wednesday and then we go up to Goa inFebruary. We will return to Australia on February 25th and I will be backin the States on March 5th! Please keep my India team in your prayers! Iwill try to keep you posted as often as possible, but don’t expect to haveinternet access again until Goa.

Planning a wedding from India isn’t exactly ideal, but it’s a goodconversation topic for our down time. The other day 2 Samuel 24:24 was agreat encouragement for me. It says something about not sacrificing to Godunless it actually costs something. Jason and I have been so blessed totalk often. The date is set for June 25th in Mount Pleasant. YEAH! Wewould greatly appreciate your prayers and encouragement during this last twomonths apart – wait, just 57 days. J

Thursday, December 22, 2005

We're ENGAGED!! The story...

Jason arrived to Brisbane on Friday, December 16th. From the airport we went directly to Hervey Bay where we took a ferry to the oh-so-beautiful Fraser Island. We stayed at Kingfisher Bay Resort which was absolutely wonderful in itself. You really appreciate air conditioning and clean bathrooms after you haven’t had them for three months! Saturday morning, Jason and I had a delicious breakfast, complete with pancakes, maple syrup and scrambled eggs (another delicacy that I had not had the pleasure of enjoying for three months). He said he had a surprise for me and we didn’t have time to do anything else so we laid out by the beautiful marsh for a little while. At 11:15, a van picked us up in front of the hotel and took us to a helicopter pad!!
The “heli” took us for an aerial tour of the island. It was a lovely day and the water was so clear that you could see all kinds of fish from the sky. Because it was a little windy, the pilot didn’t take us to the planned destination (a sandbar in the middle of the bay), but instead to a delightful private island. We had it all to ourselves for four hours. Jason and I were dropped off with a picnic lunch, blanket and a tent for shade. We decided to explore “our” island and walked to a point where there was a 100 yard long sandbar, just a short wade away over crystal clear water and smooth multi-colored stones. At the tip of the sandbar, with an audience of several exotic pelicans and some sting rays, Jason got down on one knee and asked me to marry him! After I said that there was nothing that I would rather do and jumped up and down a few (okay, maybe more than a few) times, we sat on the shore and talked about the buying of the ring and him asking my dad’s permission (that’s a funny story in itself!). Then we walked back to the tent to celebrate over our first meal together as an engaged couple! And what a meal to celebrate with – cheese, olives, veggies, fruit, several dips, Caesar salad, oysters, prawns, crab, cheesecake – YUM! After the heli picked us back up and dropped us off, we went out 4-wheel driving (you have to drive a 4-wheel drive on Fraser Island because there are no roads). It was a little scary at first, but ended up being a blast. We didn’t have much time so we went to Lake Mckenzie and swam in the refreshing, bacteria free, crystal clear water. We finished off the day with a wonderful dinner at the resort and a couple of joyous phone calls to the pleased parents. And as if he hadn’t already done enough, Jason gave me a wedding planning guide (I am sure that we are going to look back and laugh at the thought of me planning our wedding while on outreach in India)! Talk about a fantasy of a day! It is still hard to believe that it really happened.

Jason and I are so blessed to have one another and are delighted to announce our engagement. We will be married in May or June of next year.

We are writing this post from Sydney, Australia, wishing you a very Happy Christmas!